Does Faith in God Contribute to Making a Statesman?Download a PDF of this essay
The question continues to be asked among philosophers, historians and politicians alike: What is it that makes one a Statesman? Let us continue to look at this issue. King David, perhaps more than any other leader, strived to be the kind of leader God desires and is described by God as:
A man after My own heart [conforming to My will and purposes], who will do all My will (Acts 13:22).
King David, after 40 years attempting to be God’s instrument, but with the flaws of humanity, described what he was convinced God’s instrument in office would be:
The one who rules the people with justice, who rules in the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:3).
This raises the question: “Does this mean that one cannot be a statesman without God?” I am not saying that every acknowledged statesman lived his life in dependence upon God. However, I am firmly convinced that the one who desires to serve as a statesman can best achieve that goal by living in dependence upon God and in obedience to Him. Nineteenth Century United Kingdom politician William Gladstone, who served as Prime Minister on four different occasions, shared with us his insights:
During the many years in the Cabinet I was brought in contact with some sixty master minds, and not more than perhaps three or four of whom were in sympathy with the skeptical movements of the day.
His observation was that, although it may seem fashionable to express independence from God, the outstanding public servants were men of faith in God.
Abraham Lincoln, while President, said:
Faith in God is indispensable to successful statesmanship.
Abraham Kuyper, who served as Prime Minister of Netherlands, concluded:
All Statecraft flows from Christ.
An interesting case study is William Wilberforce. As he looked back on his career and motivation, he said: “The first years I was in Parliament, I did nothing ─ nothing that is to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object.” These are the words of a politician. He then summarized his changed direction that allowed him to sacrifice everything politically to eradicate slavery with these words: “God Almighty has set before me two great objects — the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” This is the Statesman speaking!
Let us consider two examples of God working in the hearts of public officials to make them better shepherds. Both governed as President of their nation two times with an interruption of years in between. In each case, the first period of governing was, by their admission, without God and the second was with God. I am sharing from public records so as not to impute something to them that is unwarranted.
The late Mathieu Kérékou governed Benin from 1972 to 1991 as a Marxist. With the close of the Cold War and the opening up of his country to free elections, he was soundly defeated in the first election and removed from office. In the process, God began to work in his life. He then withdrew from the public eye and focused his life on getting to know God. When the next elections were held in his country, he had so changed that he was elected by popular acclaim to head the nation again. One member of his cabinet told me that there is no comparison between the way he governed during this later period and the way he governed before. I am convinced that as a result of submitting his life to God as his Shepherd, he became more of a shepherd himself. We must conclude that this man governed more compassionately as God became the ruler in his personal life.
Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria governed as Head of State during two periods, from 1976-79 as a military ruler and 1999-2007 as democratically-elected President. His earlier regime was reputed to be extremely corrupt. The second time, as President, his efforts to remove corruption in his country astounded friends and critics alike. What was the difference in his life between his two terms in office? Previous to his return to office, he was imprisoned on charges that were politically motivated. In the process, he submitted his life to God as his Lord. He described his years in prison as “God’s way of slowing me down to hear His message and His words.” Subsequently, he said “Without Jesus, as President I can do nothing. With Him, all things.” It appears that God humbled him in order to remake him into God’s instrument for the nation.
I am fully convinced that as these leaders submitted their lives to God, they displayed more statesmanlike behavior, and became better shepherds of their people. Furthermore, these two cases provide as close to a control study as possible for the role of faith in God in producing statesmanlike behavior. In both cases, we can compare the leadership of specific individuals without faith in God and with faith. Obviously, this does not rule out any other factors that may have changed as well. However, this provides us with a strong argument for faith in God and gives us much to reflect upon.
Thus, when we ask the question “Can we be a Statesman without the help of God?”, I am convinced the answer is “No.” We may not recognize and express our dependence upon God, but, in fact, we do need God. God has more at stake than we do in providing the leadership He intends for those He loves so much. Hence, I believe He will even on occasion supernaturally intervene to cause us to provide the proper leadership even when we are not inclined and in a way that goes against our normal behaviour. Once we recognize this, I believe we will realize we should acknowledge our need for God and do everything we can to cooperate with Him.
FOR CONSIDERATION: Am I prepared to be a Statesman, in the sense of committed to obedience to God and seeking wisdom and direction from Him?